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Correction to This Article
An April 20 Metro article incorrectly reported the percentage of increase in Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan's proposed 2006 budget over the current spending plan. It is 8.6 percent, not 10 percent.
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Montgomery Council Mulls Tax Relief's Scope

That would require a 7.5-cent reduction in the property tax rate to bring the budget into compliance with a charter provision that limits the county to collecting tax revenue equal to the previous year's total plus inflation and the value of new construction.

Seven of nine council members, however, can vote to override that limit, as they have the past three years.

None of the plans on the table would produce a real cut in property taxes -- only reductions in the rate of growth.

Under Duncan's budget, the owner of a $400,000 house would see an increase of $316 in the annual tax bill. Under the proposal from Andrews and others, property taxes would rise by $86.

Council member Michael L. Subin (D-At Large) was absent yesterday because of illness, resulting in two tie votes on the competing proposals. Subin had indicated he would like to abide by the charter cap this year.

In fiscal 2003, the council exceeded the limit by $4.3 million and the following year by $29.2 million.

Last year, the budget was $37 million above the charter cap.

Duncan's proposal for next year would boost the tax-supported part of the budget by about 10 percent and exceed the charter limit by $63 million.

Although a majority of the council members couldn't agree yesterday, the debate laid markers for what is expected to be an intense struggle leading up to final budget decisions next month.

"I hope we craft a budget that is both fiscally and morally responsible -- and I don't believe the two are mutually exclusive," Perez said.

Andrews responded, "I'm very interested in developing a budget that is morally and fiscally responsible, but I think if the council adopts a budget that is unsustainable, it will have failed both tests."


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